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Resident Feature: Lemon


Name: Lemon

AKA: Our Honorary Husky

Estimated Birthdate: 05/05/2020

Species/Breed: Canine, Labrador Retriever

Noteworthy: squeals in delight when meeting new people

Special Needs: Oculoskeletal Dysplasia

Residency Status: permanent resident, not available for adoption

Affiliation: personal pet, not supported by sanctuary funds


Her Story:

At only a few weeks old, Lemon was brought into a veterinary office in Washington for a wellness exam. The breeder was bringing Lemon in after a request was made by the individual who had reserved her. The results of that exam were devastating. The doctor was suspicious for a genetic disorder that would be detrimental to the puppy’s overall health. Once informed, the potential buyers opted not to add her to their family. Greeted with this news, the breeder elected to surrender the puppy to the veterinary hospital. The hospital ran additional tests, and ultimately had the diagnosis confirmed by a specialist: Lemon was born with Oculoskeletal Dysplasia.

As the name suggests, Oculoskeletal Dysplasia affects the ocular and skeletal systems. Most dogs with this condition are blind by the time they are a year old. Their bones are shortened and bowed which puts abnormal and painful stress on their joints. Even with therapy, their joint disease progresses to the point of being unmanageable by 4-6 years of age. Although not a typical sequelae of the disease, Lemon has abnormal hair follicles which has lead to what we have nicknamed her unicorn horn.

Additionally, she will occasionally embrace her true unicorn spirit with a headband.

Oculoskeletal dysplasia is a recessive genetic disorder that Labrador retrievers are known to be affected by. As is typical for recessive disorders, a carrier of the disease is clinically healthy. An animal will only acquire the disease if they lack the dominant gene which can occur when two carriers of the gene are bred. Although testing prior to breeding is advised, anytime a dog is found to be a carrie, that animal should no longer be bred.

Depiction of recessive gene pairing where A is the healthy dominant gene and a is the recessive gene for Oculoskeletal Dysplasia. If parent 1 is a carrier (Aa) as well as parent 2 (Aa) then there is a 25% chance that they will have an offspring who is neither affected nor a carrier (AA), a 50% chance of having an offspring who is a carrier (Aa), and a 25% chance of having an offspring who is affected (aa).

Although we cannot say for sure, it is likely that at least one of the breeders involved knew that their animal was a carrier and opted to take the risk. Why do we think this? Because the ophthalmologist who confirmed Lemon’s diagnosis has seen several Labrador retriever puppies with oculoskeletal dysplasia in their small area. This is fairly atypical and leans to someone continuing to breed despite veterinary recommendations.


While she was under the care of the veterinary hospital, Lemon received the best care. She was placed on pain medications and received frequent chiropractic sessions. One of the staff members became the best foster mama imaginable and brought her to see all her friends at the hospital on a regular basis. She gave her the best life while she waited for her forever family, including letting her enjoy dog gelato to the fullest.

After some time, she was adopted and brought to the farm where she fell in love with her new family, and thoroughly enjoys playing with her feline siblings. She squeals with happiness upon meeting new people, especially children. She has the perfect temperament for a therapy dog which is currently being looked into. She has absolutely excelled at helping fosters transition into being in the home.

Although she is never pushed, and some days are better than others, she does enjoy the family romp sessions.


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